ramp #62

Isle of Man: The Verdun of Motorsport

The Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man is the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world. Our author flew to the island territory, where he met up with Klaus Klaffenböck.

The three-time TT sidecar champion is sometimes surprised himself that he is still alive.

  • Text
    Kurt Molzer
  • Photos
    Matthias Mederer · ramp.pictures

My Specialized e-bike is black as death. A fitting color. I’ll be riding the bike from Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man, via St. John’s up to Ramsey. From there, it’s not far into the mountains, where the Snaefell Mountain Railway crosses the road. Continuing south, I eventually come back to Douglas. In the end, I will have covered exactly 60.72 kilometers. My route follows that of the Tourist Trophy – the Verdun of motorsport. 267 dead. So far. Because the dying, that much is certain, will continue. Six bikers bit the dust last year alone. Two of them riding solo. Four in sidecars. This year it was “only” one. A person who enters this race could easily be considered to have a death wish.

I love motorsport. Both automobile racing and motorcycles. If there was no motor racing, I wouldn’t have wanted to be born. I’ve been to Le Mans. I’ve been to Indianapolis. I’ve been to Monaco. My Triple Crown. But I’ve never been to the Isle of Man, to the most dangerous motorsport event in the world. Because I’ve never wanted to see the carnage up close. Of course, I would love to see those guys blasting through the villages at 290 km/h, in between all the curbs, houses and telephone poles. It looks wild enough on YouTube. In reality, however, the experience must be an eye-opener for those of us who have been incurably afflicted with the racing virus. You would be witness to how the madness transcends itself, so to speak – with even more madness. Crazy! But I would never want to see one of those daredevils get knocked down by a bump in the road, smash against the next concrete wall and lie there motionless because all the bones in his body have been shattered and his insides have been turned to pulp, his skull nothing but mush inside and the blood running out of the bottom of his helmet.

»I’ve never been to the Isle of Man, to the most dangerous motorsport event in the world. I’ve never wanted to see the carnage up close.«
Kurt Molzer

If you’re unlucky, you’re standing only a few steps away having the shock of your life. And if you’re really unlucky, either the bike or the rider (or both) fly into your face and take you with them into the wall. And then you go down in the history of the Tourist Trophy as a sort of human crumple zone, leaving you even worse off than the unlucky rider himself. And you wouldn’t be the first!

But is it really conceivable that I would never in my life set foot on the mecca of motorcycling? Every year I ask myself this same question. A constant hemming and hawing: well, sure, okay, or, actually not, but . . . This time, finally, I was able to give myself a reasonable answer: Of course you have to go. Just not during the two weeks of madness, but at your leisure. The free practice and the qualifying sessions start at the end of May. The last race usually takes place around June 10. It was early April and I had something similar in mind to my solitary hike across the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Twenty-two kilometers in eight hours. The illusion of speed on adrenaline-soaked asphalt (see ramp#54). But the TT Course is about three times as long and passes over public roads. I would be marching forever while running the risk of being hit by a motor vehicle. At least then they could write “Fatally injured on the Isle of Man” on my tombstone. That would be something! I asked myself what it would be like by car.

»I take a look inside the telephone booth. There’s no phone in there at all, but a defibrillator for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.«
Kurt Molzer

Kam nach längerer Überlegung auch nicht infrage. Es würde mir zu schnell gehen, ich hätte nicht genügend Zeit für die gedankliche Vertiefung, nennen wir es ruhig Kontemplation. Ein Leichenfeld ist es ja quasi, über das ich fahren werde, da ist noch dazu eine gewisse Andacht geboten. Im Auto ist man durch das ständige Reagieren auf Situationen aber zu sehr abgelenkt. So kam ich schlussendlich auf das E-Bike. Ging dann alles sehr schnell. Mit Matthias Mederer – in seiner Funktion als Fotograf – landete ich noch im April auf der Insel. Die Redaktion hatte das Fahrrad schon ins Hotel vorausgeschickt. So kann man arbeiten. Es kam aber noch viel besser: Wir hatten einen Dritten im Bunde, und was für einen! Klaus Klaffenböck, Weltmeister und dreifacher TT-Champion im Seitenwagen. Der 55-jährige Oberösterreicher weiß zwar nicht, warum er noch lebt, aber immerhin tut er es – seit mittlerweile zehn Jahren auf der Isle of Man, wo er Gruppenreisen zur Tourist Trophy organisiert.

The high forehead and glasses give one of the toughest racers under the sun the air of an intellectually gifted secondary school teacher of German and biology. If you don’t know him, the first time you meet him you think: this has got to be the wrong guy. I had contacted him and asked him if he would like to join us and tell us a few good stories, and because he knows ramp and thinks it’s an extremely cool publication, he agreed right away. Klaus and Matthias would be following along behind me in a rented car, like a support vehicle at the Tour de France. That way I was well protected to the rear – after all, the roads are pretty narrow and Klaus said the locals had a fondness for the accelerator. Whenever we wanted to stop to take some photos or to talk about some of the special sections along the route, we would.

(...)

→ Read the full story in ramp #62 »Wild Things«.

Kurt Molzer

Kurt Molzer

Freelance Author & Columnist
Kurt Molzer was born and raised in Vienna and worked for years as chief editor for Bild, Penthouse and Bunte. From 2000 he was a writer for GQ magazine, where he had a monthly column. His debut novel "Kurt's Stories" was published in 2006. Now he writes for ramp (again). And he has to drive fast cars for it - although he had actually already sworn them off.
ramp #62 Wild Things

ramp #62 Wild Things

Das Unterwegs, ein wunderbar weißes Blatt, das sich uns mit einer fröhlichen Unberechenbarkeit als geniale Spielfläche für Versuch und Irrtum, für Neugier und Spontanität, Überraschungen und Fantasie anbietet. Alles ziemlich wild hier. Wie im echten Leben eben.

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